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Friday, October 6, 2006

The buck doesn't stop, apparently

It wouldn't be a Friday afternoon without some weirdness from Portland City Hall. The latest:

Regardless of what the Multnomah County grand jury decides in the death of James Chasse Jr., Mayor Tom Potter plans to ask the City Council to appoint a committee to study numerous issues related to the in-custody death of the man. Among those issues would be how the police can improve their interactions with mentally ill people and who in the community should be responsible for their care.

“We need to acknowledge that is a much larger issue than just the police,” Potter said.

Tell you what, Mayor. You do your job as police commissioner and make sure that justice is done with respect to the cops who beat that man to death. Then we can talk about "acknowledging."

Comments (24)

No kidding. Let's hope he stops the 'look over here' crap and starts with why the cops 'safety' measures broke 16 ribs.

They say his former fellow boys in blue have Foxworth-level dirt on the mayor. He can prove that rumor false with this case... or not.

Great, another unaccountable committee. Weren't there already do nothing committees for the mentally-ill citizens the police bureau has killed?

There have been a half dozen blue-ribbon hot air festivals on the subject since I've lived here. But for all the meetings and reports, some things never seem to change -- a vicious mean streak running through the police force, and officers rarely if ever disciplined for obvious use of undue force.

Hey, it's Portland. Shut up and go by streetcar.

" blue-ribbon hot air festivals ...

task farces to preserve the status quo.

Once in a while, when you get one that really does something (like the Multnomah County Animal Control Task Force(1999-2000), the leaders get run out of town and the recommendations are never implemented. Ah, the benefits of living under a good old system...

It's fascinating that those who demand due process for all are willing to shelve those notions where the police are concerned. If we can't accord those same rights, those same presumptions of innocence, to the police, isn't there something fundamentally wrong.

And as to the "mean streak" in Portland officers? Portland police arrest make tens of thousands of arrests every year, and make hundreds of thousands of citizen contacts. Not all those people are willing to be arrested, and not all are interested in the contacts. If there truly were a mean streak in Portland officers, we would be reading about it every day in the news, and the City's budget to pay civil rights claims would be a bigger line item than the tram.

The police don't have the same advantage as the personal injury lawyer hired by Mr. Chasse's family -- they can't talk freely about what happened. After all, they're suspects in a criminal investigation, and are facing a grand jury that is considering whether to indict them. What's surprising is that otherwise rational people would leap to assumptions of culpability without hearing their account of what occurred.

Anyone who has lived here for more than a couple of years and tries to pay attention knows that there is a mean streak in the police department, in the bar, and in the press.

Organized Mean.

Mr. Aitchison - How do you break 16 ribs on a human being and fail to apprehend the fact that he is in need of immediate medical attention? The guy was laying in the street passed out for several minutes while these goons stood around and watched while he was stuggling in pain to get air with a punctured lung. He needed a doctor in a big way. It was gross overkill to the extreme. The man was 5'9" and weighed 145lbs. You can talk about due process all day long, but the fact remains that these officers needlessly killed a person. The fact that a civilized community is outraged by the facts of this case should not be a cause for moral indignation to the contrary.

What powers the Mayor's relentless desire to change the subject from the Chasse specifics to nebulous generalities?

Good for you, Jack, for not maintaining focus.

Incidentally, what exactly is it that keeps the officers involved in the Chasse incident from explaining their side of the story publicly? Is there a law that says those involved in a criminal investigation loose their free speech rights? Or, is this mostly about "taking the Fifth"?

Geez! Remove "not".

Kevin's comments make my point. `No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

What keeps the officers from publicly explaining what happened? Picture yourself as the subject of an open homicide investigation, one that would culminate with a grand jury's decision whether to indict you. Would you be holding press conferences and making public statements?

And, you know, there are two sides to these stories. I'm just suggesting that people hear both sides before they make statements along the lines of "beat the man to death." Those sorts of drumbeats, which the O is so fond of fostering, don't help a thing.

I would suggest the EMTs are more culpable for failing to detect the broken ribs, punctured lung, or difficulty breathing. You can blame the police officers for breaking his ribs, but don't assume they knew his ribs were broken. That's not their job.

Perhaps a Doc could offer an opinion, but it seems likely that a lung puncture would have been detectable with a stethoscope (unless it occurred during transport).

I broke ribs twice, and the only real indication was the sharp pain I felt when moving my torso (or even bouncing in a car). I did have bruising (a lot the first time, hardly any the second time).
Tying my shoes was the worst. Granted, my lungs were never punctured.

Perhaps the police officers knew Mr. Chasse was injured; perhaps they believed he was physically exhausted (from the fight) without realizing they had caused him grave bodily injury.

The known chain of events that follow an officer involved fatality (suspension, investigation, press saturation, possible sanctions, civil liabilities, impact on career/conscience) I find it hard to imagine they withheld adequate medical treatment in order to watch him die in custody.

Perhaps if he had just gunned down a dozen people with an AK-47 that level of vindictiveness might be a possibility (as in the case of the famous body armor bank robbery in SoCal). But a 3 on 1 struggle with a homeless man? What possible motivation would three individuals have to commit manslaughter (or worse)? It doesn't add up.

The beat him badly -- it's hard to see that part as unintentional. Then they let him die -- that seems negligent at best.

But hey, come Tuesday, it will all be over, and we'll have a new Mental Health Study Group.

Naturally the officers won't talk about the incident. It's against their legal interests and would be unprecendented.

The same isn't true of the Bureau. Speaking may be against the Bureau's legal interests depending on what's said but it wouldn't be unprecedented. They frequently comment before grand jury convenes about incidents like this one. Indeed, the Bureau has spoken to the press about the Chasse death a few times.

When the Bureau speaks about an incident like this it's politically motivated. Heaven knows the Bureau would gladly throw a cop under the bus for political gain even though the cop may have committed no illegalities and acted in total compliance with the General Orders.

When deaths occur at Bureau hands and are easily justified, the Bureau will release info showing the justification even though grand jury hasn't yet convened. When they don't release such info, the negative pregnant is the justification either isn't there or is at least suspect.

If, say, Chasse had a gun and pointed it at officers the justification would've been the second thing out of Sizer's or Dolbey's or whomever's mouth, right after the obligatory "tragedy" lamentation. So procedurally the fact that the Bureau hasn't been releasing exculpatory information tells us something.

Then, of course, there's the substance of immense internal damage via blunt trauma. Given the degree and place of the injuries it appears deadly force was used. But was deadly force justified?

Virtually every aspect of the facts and parties' responses say it wasn't, in addition to the scuttlebutt among cops. Perhaps the forthcoming details promised by Sizer will justify the deadly force. Until then it's reasonable for public opinion to have shifted the burden of proof to the Bureau and officers involved.

As for the "vicious mean streak", it's hardly pervasive. Far, far more common is a cop legally justified in using a higher degree of force than the one actually applied. Cops don't want complaints against them, they don't want to file Use of Force Reports, they don't want to get hurt and more importantly, they don't want to get physical with people. The cop/brute looking for a fight used to exist in the ol' days and makes for thrilling stories to which current cops shake their heads, but I've never seen it.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Mr. Aitchison represented the cops' union, the Portland Police Association, during collective bargaining negotiations with the City. The union provides legal representation to officers on issues arising during the course of employment. I am not aware if Mr. Aitchison currently represents the union or anyone directly involved in the Chasse matter, though I suspect since he's commenting here that he doesn't.

I am no fan of "ultimate fight" matches and have only been a reluctant participant in one fist fight (in high school, three on one, I was the one).

I don't believe that most participants in any altercation are motivated by "fairness", despite the fact that police officers are required to escalate their use of force on an incremental basis.

The fact the fight (apparently) lasted as long as it did suggests the police were either:

a) wantonly disinterested in the well being of Mr. Chasse.

b) having some difficulty subduing him sufficiently to handcuff him.

Clearly, if any eyewitnesses attest that the beating continued after Mr. Chasse was compliant (and/or cuffed), then excessive force would seem to be a realistic possibility.

Instead, if eyewitness testimony suggests the police officers were only continuing to beat Mr. Chasse because he was continuing to resist them, it seems illogical to suggest that the continued "beating" was illegal or excessive.

The outcome was clearly the result of excessive force (either the beating, or the manner in which he impacted the ground) only with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. If you accept the premise that the force is (ipso facto) not sufficient until Mr. Chasse had been subdued.

if any eyewitnesses attest that the beating continued after Mr. Chasse was compliant (and/or cuffed), then excessive force would seem to be a realistic possibility.

I guess you don't read the papers. This is exactly what the eyewitnesses' complaints are reported to say.

Grampy Potter just wants to pretend he is a strong mayor, without, of course, doing his job as police commissioner and disciplining his thugs -- and actually being strong.

Maybe it is time for him to designate another "avenue of roses," like he did with 82nd Ave. I would suggest 162nd.

So, Tom, if they had reported the killing to you while you were on vacation in Crawford, I mean Germany, would you have done something about it then?

Strong my @$$.

Very few people know this, but the Mayor does so much international travel because he is actually working for the CIA.

Until the eyewitnesses statements have been superimposed on a chronology of events, I don't know how anybody could know what happened. What happened can only be interpreted through the filter of when it happened, and why.

Perhaps a few blows weer landed after Mr. Casse was cuffed; perhaps that's because he was still biting on an officer's arm.

As any criminal defense lawyer will tell you, eyewitness testimony can be notoriously unreliable, and frequently doesn't survive cross examination without substantive revisions.

People never "see" things the same way, and they do bring a subjective value set to their interpretation of events.

For example, I would expect a member of the new age clergy who advocates for homeless rights to "see" the use of force in an entirely different light than (for example) a bus driver or a parole officer.

I'm guessing that Mr. T's opinion that Chasse got what he deserved, or what was necessary, might be a popular attitude among many Oregon citizens.

A key feature of this attitude is the idea that beating or inflicting pain is an effective method to use if you and a couple other guys need to subdue a person...or release the grip of his teeth from your arm.

Could someone educate me? Is that what they teach in Police Academy?

For what other fearful and struggling 150 pound primates, mammals or vertebrates is this true?

"I would expect a member of the new age clergy who advocates for homeless rights to "see" the use of force in an entirely different light than (for example) a bus driver or a parole officer."

How about the point of view of the son of a cop?

From the Merc:

Jamie Marquez, who works in the Pearl, witnessed the incident.

"My dad's a cop," says Marquez, who says he's had trouble sleeping since witnessing the incident. "So I'm not biased. I respect their job—everyone's job is hard. But as a taxpayer, I pay for the cops to protect and serve, not to lose control. There needs to be accountability for this."

Reading that Mercury brings up another factual oddity. The article said Chasse was booked with the following charges: Resisting Arrest, Assault on a Public Safety Officer and Interference. The first two are self-explanatory and Interference means not obeying a cop's lawful order, i.e. "Stop!" to a fleeing suspect.

None of these charges address the call's origin. That's very unusual. When cops book charges relating to events surrounding an arrest, they include any potential charges from the conduct that originated the call.

Say a cop encounters a man sleeping on the floor of the Duniway park restroom. That's a crime but the cop just tells the man to scram. The man refuses repeatedly. Cop goes to arrest the man, tells the man he's under arrest and the man assaults the cop. Now the cop can book the man with all the above Chasse crimes in addition to the City Ordinance preventing people from sleeping on public restroom floors. No cop in his right mind would not list the City Ordinance charge since it underlies all the subsequent crimes, especially after a nasty fight where CYA had to have been on the cops' minds.

Just another question in the litany...

Better get the litany out quick. By Tuesday Schrunk and Grampy will be telling us it's all over but the Study Group.

A little food for thought. You ever wonder how often rib bones get broken while doing CPR. I googled it and found out that it is a fairly common occurrence. I know it will be hard for most here to consider the possiblly that some of CHasse's ribs could have been broken while the officers adminstered CPR


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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
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Marc Maron - Waiting for the Punch
Phil Stanford - Rose City Vice
Kenneth R. Feinberg - What is Life Worth?
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Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
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Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
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Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
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William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
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